How To Talk To Your Boss About Working From Home Permanently

As offices reopen, many workers don’t want to get back to the pre-pandemic grind, reports Liz Collin (3:37). WCCO 4 News At 10 - May 3, 2021

Video Transcript

FRANK VASCELLARO: And as offices reopen, many workers don't want to get back to the pre-pandemic grind.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: One study found more than 80% of remote employees are against returning to the workplace or would like a hybrid schedule. Tonight, WCCO's Liz Collin takes a look at productivity levels this last year, and what that could mean for making new plans with your boss.

MICHELLE FOHRENKAMM: Last time I was at work was last March of 2020--

LIZ COLLIN: Like many, Michelle Fohrenkamm's downtown views of Saint Paul were replaced by those from the suburbs when COVID came on scene. An employee of Ramsay County for 11 years, she worked from home regularly before. Now, Fohrenkamm wants to stay put for good.

MICHELLE FOHRENKAMM: Everything we've been doing for the last year, we should be able to continue doing it from home like we have been.

LIZ COLLIN: Meeting deadlines at work she believes became easier with the option to finish up after hours or on the weekends, all while juggling two young boys without the hassle of a 35 minute commute.

MICHELLE FOHRENKAMM: Having that flexibility is huge. I would much rather have that than more money.

LIZ COLLIN: On Facebook it seems Fohrenkamm's feelings are shared by most workers who responded to my post. Derek worked in downtown Minneapolis for over 20 years and didn't think he'd like working from home, but now it's all he wants for his few reasons. Melissa says her husband wants to stay home. "He is way more productive and saves two hours each day not having to commute." Is it really possible to be as productive at home?

ERNEST OWENS: I think the answer is yes.

LIZ COLLIN: Ernest Owens is an Assistant Professor of Business at the University of St. Thomas. He believes productivity among white-collar jobs has in some cases exceeded pre-pandemic work levels. But its stress and burnout, he points to as real problems.

ERNEST OWENS: Zoom is like watching TV, it can exhaust you and it's almost like a voluntary thing. It's yes, I'm tired, I'm on all these Zoom sessions, and there's so much Zoom going on, and I'm Zoom-fatigued, and then the next five minutes they're back onto another Zoom session.

LIZ COLLIN: Owens thinks we'll fully realize the physical and mental toll of working full-time at home soon, without the luxury of leaving work behind.

EMMA DENNY: It's a very unsettled area of law at the moment, just because it is so new and there is so many unresolved issues at this time.

LIZ COLLIN: COVID has prompted countless calls to employment attorneys like Emma Denny. She says employers can mandate that employees come back as a condition of their work, and that most can legally be required to show proof of vaccination first. For their part, employers must maintain safety requirements like social distancing and masks. Still when it comes to returning to the office, Denny's found most employers are giving their workers some wiggle room.

EMMA DENNY: I really haven't been seeing a lot of opposition from employers to allowing employees to continue to work from home in some capacity.

LIZ COLLIN: Denny says it's best to start with a formal plan, not a casual conversation, and have the logistics worked out first. Focus on how the arrangement benefits your boss, not you, pointing to measurable outcomes like a boost in production and more ownership over big projects.

MIKE HADDOX: This isolation I didn't like.

LIZ COLLIN: Mike Haddox is in sales and one of the few we found excited to head back to his building June 1st.

MIKE HADDOX: I work longer hours, more on the weekends, but also there's a lot of distractions working from home.

LIZ COLLIN: The social interactions with his 40 colleagues, the part of the job he misses most.

MIKE HADDOX: The ones I've talked to I don't think they want to go back. I don't think they're as anxious as I am to go back.

LIZ COLLIN: You're kind of alone in this, huh?

MIKE HADDOX: I think so. That's what I'm getting.

LIZ COLLIN: Reporting from home, Liz Collin, WCCO 4 News.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Professor Ernest Owens reminds workers to take breaks during work-from-home life and getting outside away from your screen. For more tips to keep working from home or on creating a hybrid schedule, just visit wcco.com/links.